In Lizard Man: The True Story of the Bishopville Monster, Lyle Blackburn takes us along on an investigation into a cryptid from the swamps of South Carolina.
Blackburn previously explored the Fouke Monster in his excellent book The Beast of Boggy Creek. The author’s style and approach remain much the same in Lizard Man. Choosing an (arguably somewhat obscure) monster of North American folklore, he personally travels to the site of the original events. There, he tracks down surviving witnesses for interviews, visits significant locations, and basically does whatever legwork can reasonably be done so many years after the fact.
The era of the Lizard Man was a somewhat brief one, becoming an overnight cultural phenomenon, but not providing the depth or longevity of reports one might expect from the more famous members of the cryptozoology club. That’s not to say that the matter was unworthy of investigation, and in my view the result was actually a gem of a story. It’s not a long book, but it’s more or less the size it needed to be to tell the tale of the Lizard Man, at least as far as it can be known today. And, as it turns out, the popular interpretation of the creature that had been presented by armchair researchers and the media was not necessarily accurate, even by monster-hunting standards.
The author does attempt to draw conclusions about the nature of the beast based on the available witness reports. In a later chapter he covers other instances of “lizard men” in cryptozoology and popular culture in an attempt to draw comparisons. Blackburn slow-walks us to a conclusion that is probably more or less obvious to the experienced reader well before he finally gets there: the Lizard Man moniker is a misnomer, and the creature reported by witnesses is not particularly lizard-like at all.
In fact, in what is for me the highlight of the entire effort, the most well regarded Bishopville Monster reports turn out to have almost identical traits to other incidents commonly interpreted as encounters with a Sasquatch. Despite the “lizard” interpretation plastered all over the media and the public imagination of the day, in reality, virtually every credible witness described classic Bigfoot characteristics. This is seemingly significant in that unlike Sasquatch encounters by people already intent on finding the creature, and therefore arguably prone to see one whether it exists or not, the Lizard Man witnesses should have seen a man-lizard, or nothing at all. A fascinating result, and one that more than justifies the effort Blackburn puts into his investigation.
The author’s writing style is easy and personable, and aside from a few minor typographical errors, the book is a pleasure to read. It’s a must for monster hunters, and is almost certainly the most definitive work available today on the Lizard Man of Bishopville.